HAMPTON, Va. — President Obama will use an appearance at a military base here Wednesday to announce a partnership with the private sector to employ 25,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars over the next two years, White House officials said.
Obama has been touring the region by bus to promote his plans to create public sector jobs. But, with his $447 billion American Jobs Act stalled in Congress, Obama also has called on the private sector to help reduce an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent among veterans, above the national average of 9.1 percent.
In a speech at the Washington Navy Yard in August, Obama challenged businesses to hire 100,000 veterans by the end of 2013. The first step toward that goal comes Wednesday when the administration will announce a commitment from the American Logistics Association to hire a quarter of that number, officials said Tuesday.
The president will be joined by first lady Michelle Obama for the announcement at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, are leading the White House’s Joining Forces initiative to assist veterans.
“This a huge commitment,” said Matt Flavin, the White House director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, in a conference call with reporters. “There is nothing more important than getting military members and their spouses hired. . . This is a huge piece of that.”
As he has toured the country, Obama has talked at nearly every stop about the importance of putting veterans back to work once they have arrived home and left the military. Under one component of his jobs bill, companies would earn a tax credit of up to $9,600 for every veteran they hired.
“If Congress passes this jobs bill, companies will get new tax credits for hiring America’s veterans,” Obama said at a community college in Dallas this month. “Think about it. We ask these men and women to leave their families, disrupt their careers, risk their lives for our nation. The last thing they should have to do is to fight for a job when they come home.”
The Senate blocked the jobs package last week, and Obama and Senate Democratic leaders have vowed to reintroduce each component of the plan in smaller bills, starting this week.
American Logistics is a trade association that represents more than 270 member companies that provide goods and services to commissaries and exchanges on U.S. military bases across the globe.
Under its commitment, about 60 companies have pledged to hire up to several thousand workers apiece, said Pat Nixon, the association’s president. ConAgra Foods, for example, has committed to hiring 3,000 veterans, he added.
“When we talked to our companies, they had a very fragmented approach to reaching out to veterans,” Nixon said. “We hope this provides a laser focus for the companies.”
The program is strictly voluntary, White House officials said, but a reporting mechanism will be established so that the trade association can monitor the companies’ progress. Many of the jobs could be in retail, but some could lead to posts in corporate management, Nixon said.
Veterans will receive training to obtain certification and credential that could help them pursue positions with specialized skill sets, White House officials added.
“We have emphasized that while hiring veterans for patriotic reasons is a positive . . . veterans and their spouses are extraordinary partners, and it makes sense for them to be hired,” said Brad Thompson, executive director of Joining Forces.